Demon’s Souls, which as you might have heard recently received an incredible remake on PlayStation 5 courtesy of Bluepoint Games, is arguably easier than the games that iterated on its formula, but still likely to be a daunting experience for newcomers. As such, here are a few tips to get you started on your visit to Boletaria.
Upon starting Demon’s Souls, you’ll be asked to choose between 10 different classes, each with its own stats and starting equipment. The class you choose determines how you approach the first few hours of the game, but try not to get too hung up on this decision. Demon’s Souls is big, with lots of variety in how you can build your character. Don’t feel like you’ll be trapped into casting magic or wielding a big club for the whole game just because that’s in your initial loadout.
If you want to have an easier go of things early on, go with the Royal. It comes equipped with some powerful magic, decent equipment, and starts at level one, giving it the most potential for growth as you start to gain more levels. As for stats, the level up screen will make it pretty obvious what’s getting improved, but here’s a quick breakdown of those increases just in case:
- Vitality: HP, Item Burden (i.e. how much you can carry)
- Intelligence: MP, Magic Memory (i.e. how many spells you can equip at once)
- Endurance: Stamina, Equip Burden (i.e. how much you can equip before being slowed down), various damage resistances. This is a very good stat to increase early.
- Strength: Strength-based weapon damage (you can ignore if you’re going pure DEX)
- Dexterity: Dexterity-based weapon damage (you can ignore if you’re going pure STR)
- Magic: Spell power
- Faith: Miracle power, Miracle Memory (i.e. how many miracles you can equip at once)
- Luck: Item drop rates, Plague resistance
Additionally, every stat increase, no matter which discipline it’s applied to, will raise your overall defenses.
A new addition to the Demon’s Souls remake is the option to, as in Dark Souls, choose a Starting Gift during character creation. Also like in Dark Souls, there’s a clear winner: the Providential Ring. While the other gifts are nice, many are also finite, whereas the Providential Ring and its boost to item find will remain useful much longer. This will also come in handy later when you start farming for materials to upgrade your equipment.
If this is your first time playing Demon’s Souls or you could use a refresher on its mechanics, answer “Yes” when the game asks if you want to play through the journey to the Nexus. This small tutorial area will teach you the basics of the game and allow you to get familiar with them in a low-risk environment.
It’s during the journey to the Nexus that you’ll want to get a handle on parrying and backstabbing. These techniques lead to massive damage, but can be a little tricky to get down. Parrying is all about pressing the parry button (L2 by default) right before an enemy’s attack would land, deflecting it and opening them up for a riposte (press attack for some great damage). Backstabbing is a matter of positioning yourself correctly behind the foe before hitting attack. Both are a little hard to put to words, so definitely test them out before leaving the tutorial area.
Another important aspect of the journey to the Nexus is that it will get you comfortable with kicking the bucket. The end of the area will bring you face to face with the Vanguard Demon, the biggest and most aggressive enemy you’ve encountered so far. Do your best to bring it down, but you’ll probably end up eating the business end of its massive axe and dying. And that’s fine! Demon’s Souls wants you to die (beating the monster will just result in a different kind of death, but I won’t spoil that here) to set up one of the game’s core hurdles.
Dying is a big deal in Demon’s Souls, but it’s not the end. After getting smushed by a boulder or scorched by a dragon, you’ll wake up in “soul” form at the last archstone (basically this game’s version of the Dark Souls bonfire) you used, with your health halved. Getting out of soul form is a matter of defeating a boss or using an item called Stone of Ephemeral Eyes. At the beginning of the game neither of these options will be readily available to you, so you’ll need to get used to surviving at half health for a bit. However...
About half-way through the first level after reaching the Nexus, you’ll find the Cling Ring. It’s hard to miss, nestled in a small alcove after you traverse the battlements of Boletarian Palace, head down a winding tower, and open the first shortcut to the beginning of the level. You’ll want to equip the Cling Ring as soon as possible, as it reduces the soul-form health penalty from 50 percent to 25 percent. More health is very helpful early on, so don’t miss it.
And while we’re talking about useful equipment, the first area past the Archstone of the Shadowmen (also known as the Island’s Edge of the Shrine of Storms, or simply 4-1) hides a particularly powerful early-game weapon known as the Crescent Falchion. This blade has been modified from the normal Falchion to deal damage based on a character’s Magic stat rather than Dexterity, making it the perfect fit for those who start the game as Royalty. It’s very much worth making a quick trip to this level and grabbing it, but maybe hold off on exploring the rest of the area until you’ve leveled up a bit.
By pressing the touch pad, you can bring up a menu that includes an option for placing messages in the world. These messages can be seen by other players, who can then rate them. Helpful messages will be seen by more players, who will then rate them, and so on and so forth. While the templates are limited, other players rating your messages will grant you some extra healing at random-feeling times, so it’s a good idea to leave little tips behind for those who come after you. You won’t believe how many times my ass has been saved during a boss fight by a well-timed message rating.
In addition to messages, the ground will also be littered with bloodstains, little pools of plasma where other players have died. Activating these bloodstains will allow you to watch how that player bit the bullet, providing a good idea of the dangers that lurk ahead of you. It’s always a good idea to check out a few bloodstains every time you enter a new area as a way to prepare yourself for the worst.
Did you notice how some of the classes on the character-creation screen were hunched over? That indicates that their equipment is weighing them down. While heavier armor is great for raising your defenses, it also limits your movement. Try rolling with a full set of platemail on and you’ll see the difference immediately: Instead of performing a nimble escape, your character will lurch and lumber as they struggle with the maneuver, leaving you open to enemy attacks.
This “fat roll,” as the community calls it, is a penalty for surpassing 50% of your total Equip Burden stat, which can be increased by investing points in Endurance. It’s up to you which playstyle you prefer, but Demon’s Souls is much easier when you can benefit from the invincibility frames faster rolling provides.
As you explore Boletaria you’ll often notice shiny lizards scurrying away and disappearing. These are crystal lizards, and when killed, they provide valuable crafting materials. That said, it’s can be hard to do so if you aren’t expecting them. Make sure to note their locations and come back after you’ve rested at an archstone to get the drop on them.
Every boss you kill will drop a unique soul that can be consumed for a large boost to your accumulated souls (the currency you use to both level up and buy items). You might be tempted to snack on those babies as soon as you beat a boss, but hold off, because you’ll eventually meet NPCs who can transmogrify those souls into unique, often-powerful weapons and spells. It’s worth hanging onto them just to make sure you don’t miss out on those exclusive items.
When all else fails, summon a helper! Very often you’ll find blue etchings on the ground outside of a boss room, which indicates that a player has offered to help others with the fight. Summoning them will allow them to enter your world and give you some backup. Beware, this also increases enemy strength and health, but that’s a small price to pay for a helping hand.
PlayStation 5 has a ton of Demon’s Souls tips built right into its operating system. Pressing the home button will bring up several cards, the leftmost of which should feature small walkthrough videos for the area you’re currently traversing. I personally think they show too much, but if push comes to shove and you’d rather just be shown how to complete an area or side-quest, definitely let the PlayStation 5 guide you.
A lot of hay has been made about the difficulty of From Software’s Souls franchise. And while they are challenging, it’s a specific kind of challenge, one that rewards introspection and gradual improvement. It’s for this reason that Demon’s Souls might not be your cup of tea. Believe me, I’m not trying to be smug here! If you don’t like it after a few hours, that’s fine. The game doesn’t really deviate from what you’ve already seen. Don’t force yourself to play something that frustrates you.
But if you choose to stick around, you’ll find a wonderful experience that only feels more and more rewarding as you progress. There’s something very satisfying about finally figuring out a boss pattern or learning how to navigate a level without taking damage. I highly recommend giving Demon’s Souls the old college try, if for nothing else than how beautifully it’s utilized the PlayStation 5 to remake the already-incredible original.